Shorter times for ED waits in Wollongong

Patients are spending less time in Wollongong Hospital's emergency department as a result of a major reform.

Data from the Ministry of Health reveals that in January 2013, 54 per cent of patients were being treated within four hours at Wollongong Hospital.

Fast-forward to December 2013 and 67.3 per cent of patients were treated within four hours - an improvement of 13.3 percentage points.

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District assistant director clinical operations Suzanne Harris said the improvement in waiting times had occurred despite significant increases in the number of presentations at the hospital's ED.

"In the past three years alone, presentations have increased by almost 10 per cent to around 60,000 per year, making Wollongong one of the busiest EDs in NSW," she said.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the Ministry of Health figures revealed dramatic improvements in ED waiting times in all 23 hospitals taking part in the Whole of Hospital program.

The program, introduced last year, would be rolled out to other NSW hospitals, she said.

"The Whole of Hospital program seeks to connect or streamline processes, behaviours and communication throughout a hospital," Mrs Skinner said.

"The aim is to improve patient safety and quality of care by removing obstacles to patient flow that contribute to emergency department overcrowding."

Ms Harris said the Whole of Hospital program had implemented a range of strategies at Wollongong Hospital to prevent unnecessary wait times within the ED.

One of the initiatives was the creation of a minor injuries and illness unit within the ED, which allowed less urgent presentations to be seen more quickly.

The hospital was also trialling a criteria-led discharge project in partnership with the Agency for Clinical Innovation to reduce unnecessary stays.

However NSW Nurses and Midwives Association regional organiser Mark Murphy said strict targets put nurses under pressures.

"It's not as clear-cut as the figures suggest," he said. "There's immense pressure on EDs to increase the patient flow to meet the target, and there's a flow-on effect on nurses in wards throughout."